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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Under the Sunny Summer Steamy Sky...

shopgirl


Agalloch - The Mantle


...is a grey area.

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This is the album responsible for inciting a musical movement called The New Wave of Swedish Death Metal a.k.a. Melodeath, more so than The Gallery, Jester Race, or any other album out there. The melodic, yet crushing sound have become the signature of Gothenburg bands. The album has reached its influences into broad areas of rock/metal music, especially with American bands like Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, etc. etc.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, this album is vilified and scorned by metal purists, claiming that the band has sold out from its original sound to create this pop-structured album. This album single-handedly produced a stream of copycats that has diluted the metal scene, which eventually destroyed the movement the band once owned.

Now, everybody has their own opinion about this album. But as far as I’m concerned, Slaughter of the Soul is simply one of the better albums released in the 90’s, one of the best guitar-oriented Metal albums ever, and easily one of the most influential albums in the current wave of Metal music. At the same time, Slaughter of the Soul is a flawed album that shows flashes of brilliance, only to leave listeners ultimately unsatisfied.

The songs are typified by an in-your-face attack, heralded by the sterling guitar work, a mix between brutal Death Metal and the vigor of Power Metal, and tight, active rhythm section. The vocals are a mix of Hardcore shouts and Black Metal screams. The album is appropriately produced by Fredrik Nordstrom, notable for his guitar-heavy recordings.

The guitars really stand out in this album, production-wise, as well as song-wise. Slaughter of the Soul boasts some of the most visceral riffs in metal music. ‘Cold’, ‘Suicide Nation’, and ‘World of Lies’ contain creative and powerful guitar lines with loads of melody that makes the music whistle-able, ala Heartwork.

In ‘Cold’, At the Gates has crafted a timeless Metal classic that will surely stand the test of time. The crushing intro which leads to the lurching mid-tempo riff is the stuff made for headbanging. The off-kilter bridge riff and the serene acoustic part, leading back to the bridge with an overlaying short, but sweet lead is excellent. And the chorus is damn infectious. A must hear for any Metal fans.

However, the problem with the album is that most of the songs follow a verse-chorus-lead formula that becomes predictable as the album wears on, which renders them easily digestible. The songs have the tendency to be powerful and memorable at one point, but after repeated listens, they lose their luster and impact. Another gripe with the album is that the band recycles chord progressions heard on previous songs. Nevertheless, this doesn’t discount the songs from its greatness, since all of them are performed with venomous intensity and urgency.

Overall, despite its shortcomings, Slaughter of the Soul is still highly recommended. My suggestion: buy the album, and make your opinion about it.

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